As humans we instinctively cling to material objects from which we perceive the potential to derive pleasure, comfort, or pain avoidance. This starts small, such as the sugar hit from a ripe banana, and extends far beyond to a desire for the rewards of money and status offered as a sales pitch for why we should follow a career path focussed on monetary gain instead of experiential richness.
We cannot completely detach ourselves from that material system while living in the western world, but that we can acknowledge it for what it is and choose our path accordingly.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Me-High Chick-Sent-Me-High) speaks of this in his book 'Flow' and encourages us to consider the impact such a system has had on human experience:
"Why is it that, despite having achieved previously undreamed-of miracles of progress, we seem more helpless in facing life than our less privileged ancestors were? The answer seems clear: while humankind collectively has increased its material powers a thousandfold, it has not advanced very far in terms of improving the content of experience."
So knowing that we cannot fully 'unplug' from the social systems of the world in which we live, what can we do to improve "the content of experience"?
First, acknowledge the material desires for what they are: a combination of genetic programming and conditioning from the various societal elements (advertisers, politicians, religious organisations, etc.) to influence human behaviour.
Next, understand that all of those desires are happening on the physical plane, and are simply our mind's interpretation of what we see, hear, and do. Note we have a choice as to how we allow ourselves to perceive these things.
With that knowledge in hand seek to improve the "content" of your own experience in life through living more in the present moment, aware of each passing breath and the simple beauty in everyday life.
Extend that process by taking control of what time you can to focus on activities which require your complete focus, bring enjoyment, and allow you to slip away into the task allowing time to pass effortlessly by. Adventure sports, yoga, art, and music are just a few of the ways this might be achieved.
Much has been written and talked about on the topic of these "flow states".
From a physical active perspective Jamie Wheal goes into some depth in this talk by describing it as: "a state in which you tend to have heightened focus, pattern recognition, reaction time, and a host of other performance benefits."
On the mental plane I quite like Ondi Timoner's description in her blog post in relation to editing films with Avid as "a transcendent feeling, as if I have to race to physically manifest the ideas and connections that are flowing through me. I become a conduit as puzzle pieces fly into place. Ever been there? Sometimes it just happens to us suddenly with a click."
The conscious choice of how we interpret the world combined with taking action to focus more of our time and energy on enhancing experiences by doing things which allow us to enter enhanced states of consciousness, flow states, is how we can live happier and more fulfilling lives.
This does not require drastic changes in where we live or how we earn money - it simply requires us to take control of our minds to pull back a few extra moments of time to feed this path.
So think, when was the last time you experienced such a moment in your own life? What were you doing, where were you, and who were you with?
Is their some aspect of that experience which, to recreate, doesn't require you to spend money or move physically from where you are now? Does this help you get there faster? Is there something you can do today to bring you closer to recreating that experience?
P.S. I believe that success comes at the intersection of passion and value, and that a strong mind and a clean body are pillars of that success. My goal is to empower entrepreneurs to combine flow state training with adventure sports and yoga as a platform for enhanced performance and creativity in business and in life.